On October 10, 2018 Microsoft announced that it was joining the Open Invention Network (“OIN”) and making available to the OIN approximately 60,000 of its patents. The OIN is a community of businesses which provides royalty-free licenses to its members. The licenses give access to a set of pooled patents in exchange for agreements to abide by mutual patent nonaggression with respect to Linux systems and applications. By requiring members to agree to mutual patent nonaggression to access the patent pool the OIN enforces cooperation among the interested parties. In comparison, if members of the OIN devoted the patents to the public or allowed the patents to lapse then there would be no constraints against members engaging in litigation against each other using patents withheld from the OIN pool.
The move by Microsoft to join OIN may have been driven in part by the increased proportion of Microsoft Azure virtual machines that are running Linux. As the share of Microsoft’s cloud services users that are Linux users increase, Microsoft is increasingly benefiting from the health of the Linux community.
The announcement by Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Erich Andersen, can be found here.
More information about the proportion of Azure virtual machines running Linux can be found here.